Michel Roux Jr has spent his life in the kitchen – in fact he was nearly born in one. Ahead of his appearance at the Hampton Court Palace Food Festival, he talks about his lifelong love…
What are you looking forward to doing at the festival?
I love the Seychelles (so much so, I got married there!) which has inspired both of my dishes – I’ll be demonstrating grilled prawn, spicy aubergine and coconut, and lamb tongue Seychellois. I love Creole cuisine, it’s a melting pot of French, African, and Indian.
I’m really looking forward to being at Hampton Court Palace – it’s iconic and rich with British history.
What is your favourite summer dish? Seasonal summer ingredient?
It’s tough to pick just one! We have such beautiful British summer produce. I love British strawberries, so anything including those and I’m happy. Strawberry and red wine jelly is delicious. I also love peaches, so maybe a white peach soufflé with vanilla.
What is your first foodie memory?
I was pretty much brought up in a kitchen so most of my childhood memories are food-related. Some of my earliest memories are the smells of my father Albert cooking in the Fairlawne kitchen in Kent [where he was employed as private chef to the Cazalet family]. I remember playing underneath the table. My first foodie memory abroad is being in Spain as a child with my parents, eating honey straight from the honeycomb and ending up with sticky fingers and a sticky chin!
With your uncle, your cousin, and father acclaimed chefs, what is it like coming from such an illustrious foodie dynasty?
I can’t really say I know any different. I recognise that I’ve been incredibly lucky to be surrounded by incredible chefs but to me, they’re just family. I think becoming a chef is a very natural reaction to being surrounded by a family of chefs and being brought up in kitchens. I was nearly born in the kitchen! [His mum was helping his dad cook when she went into labour and had to be rushed to hospital].
Being around cooking constantly at such a young age sparked a natural curiosity in me, in the same way it did for my daughter Emily, and she’s now a chef too. Neither of us were ever pushed into being chefs, it’s just something we always wanted to do.
What are your future plans?
That’s the age-old question – so much to do, so little time. We celebrated Le Gavroche’s 50th anniversary last year, which was an iconic milestone. Where do we go from here? I spend a lot of time reflecting on our amazing history. I’m kept very busy and happy running Le Gavroche, Roux at Parliament Square, and the food offering at The Langham,. As for what else, who knows?
What do you think the secret of success is with Le Gavroche and why has it had such longevity?
Le Gavroche is, and has always been, a family restaurant and I think that’s a huge part of the reason for its success. We’re an independent establishment, and there are family values and ideals that you just can’t replicate elsewhere. We’ve got guests that have been coming for years, since my father’s time at the restaurant, and they are like family. That’s important, I think, for us – our guests are not just customers, they’re friends. I always try and duck out of the kitchen for ten minutes to go and greet all of our diners because it’s important for me to maintain that personal relationship.
My father still pops in every now and again (for a free meal!) and he knows and greets our guests too.
What do you love most about what you do?
Being in the kitchen, without a doubt. It has always been that way. I’m very lucky and grateful to do the TV work and it’s great fun, but I’ve always seen it as a by-product of my day job. I’m a chef, and I’m happiest in my kitchen, cooking for my guests.
Do you have a summer holiday in store – where do you tend to go – and where do you eat out?
I take a break every summer and go to our family home in Ardèche. The best place to eat is probably my house! To be honest, there are so many great places to eat in the area. It’s provincial, home cooking at its best.
What country do you think has the best food in the world?
France! Although to be honest, I have fairly wide tastes, so I don’t think I could narrow it down to just one. I really love Asian food. See, too many to choose from!
See Michel Roux Jr at the Hampton Court Palace Food Festival on Saturday 25 August. Festival dates: 25 to 27 August. Tickets include admission to the palace. www.hrpfoodfestivals.com